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Last updated 8th August 2022

Permission to Officiate (PTO)

Permission to Officiate (PTO) is the way in which clergy who are not incumbents or licensed by the Bishop are authorised to exercise their ministry as deacons and priests.  Many of those holding Permission to Officiate have retired from licensed ministry.  Others are licensed in another diocese or are for some reason currently without an ecclesiastical office. 

We rejoice in the gift of all God’s people, and amongst them the invaluable ministry of clergy with Permission to Officiate.  Many such clergy help regularly in their home parishes.  Many also enable ministry to be provided during vacancies, clergy holidays, and other absences.  
It is only possible to exercise ordained ministry in the Church of England with the authorisation of the Bishop, either through institution, licence or Permission to Officiate.

The grant (and removal) of Permission to Officiate is at the Bishop’s discretion, and does not carry the particular rights and responsibilities of licensed ministry.  However, recent developments, and in particular the report of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Visitation of the Diocese of Chichester, have caused us to review our arrangements for PTO Ministry here in the Diocese of Blackburn.   

Those with Permission to Officiate can minister in any parish within the Diocese, but only at the invitation of the Incumbent/Priest in Charge or during a Vacancy the Churchwardens or Area Dean.  The law prevents ministry without such permission.  Funerals (including in crematoria and public cemeteries) may only be undertaken with the permission of the appropriate parish priest. 


All clergy should have a regular place of worship, and should look to their incumbent for pastoral care.  They should also keep up arrangements for spiritual direction/accompaniment.  

The degree and nature of involvement in ministry within that parish are a matter for discussion with the Parish Priest.  The extent of involvement in staff meetings, etc, is at the discretion of the Incumbent and likely to depend on the scope of ministry offered.  It is good for PTO clergy (especially those exercising an active ministry in the parish) to be born in mind in arrangements for saying the daily offices.  


Retired clergy with Permission to Officiate are entitled to Casual Duty Fees for conducting services within the regular pattern of a parish – other than the parish in which they regularly worship. 

At present the Casual Duty Fee is £36 per service, with or without sermon, maximum £72 per day. You are also entitled to claim travel expenses at 45p per mile.

In respect of Weddings and Funerals, the fees are the property of the DBF and the PCC.  Funeral Directors have been instructed to pay all fees to PCC Treasurers.  The PCC Treasurer will then offer you 80% of the DBF fee together with your travelling expenses. 


All clergy are subject to Canon Law and the Clergy Discipline Measure. 
Those exercising even occasional pastoral ministry, including occasional offices, do so under the authority of their Parish Priest (or, during a vacancy, the Wardens and Area Dean).  
Clergy with PTO have a special relationship with their Area Dean, who will be consulted by the Bishop before PTO is renewed.  

Your Parish Priest or Area Dean should be the first port of call if you have any need help or advice in their ministry. You can find the name of your Area Dean by using the Directory page on this website.


It is up to the Parish Priest inviting you to minister to check this with the bishop of his diocese.  If you are to minister in another diocese on a recurring basis you may need to apply for PTO there.


If you are seeking PTO, either for the first time, or as a renewal of your existing permission, please contact Esther by email or phone Bishop’s House 01254 248234.

The Diocese is committed to the highest levels of safeguarding.  You will also need to return your completed Self-Declaration Form.  You will then be given a link to enable you to apply for a criminal records disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS – the successor to the CRB). 

You will need to show that you have either completed Church of England  C3 Leadership Clergy Safeguarding training within the last three years, or be booked onto a forthcoming training session.  Details of training sessions can be obtained here or 01254 503088.  

If you are new to the Diocese, then your current Bishop will be asked to provide a commendation (in the form of an episcopal reference and clergy current status letter).
If you are new to the Diocese, once these checks are in place you will be invited to meet with the Bishop of Blackburn or one of his suffragans.

If you already hold Permission to Officiate and are seeking renewal, the Area Dean of the Deanery in which you normally minister will be asked for his/her consent.  


PTO is granted for a maximum of three years, after which the permission needs to be renewed.  For administrative convenience, all PTOs fall due for renewal on the same date - the next renewal date is June 2023.


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